wfedstaff | June 4, 2015 3:01 pm
Federal managers have long anticipated an impending tidal wave of retirement, when large numbers of baby boomers start filing for their pensions. Recent figures from the Office of Personnel Management show that many feds may finally be ready to shout “cowabunga” and ride that wave out.
Retirement applications have risen sharply — nearly 25 percent — for the first 10 months of 2011, according to OPM statistics obtained by the Federal Times. At that rate, 104,700 will have filed for retirement by the end of December.
John Palguta, vice president for policy at the Partnership for Public Service, suspects that turnover may be even higher.
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“One has to consider, for every two retirees you have at least one other employee who simply quits government to do something outside of government,” Palguta told the The Federal Drive with Tom Temin and Amy Morris on Tuesday. Palguta explained that the percentage of people seeking retirement is somewhat predictable, based on employees’ eligibility, years of service and age.
“We know we’ve got quite a few folks and then the trend, unfortunately, for some government managers is pretty clear,” he said. “This is the time that folks are starting to pull the plug. It’s not just at the federal level. Wisconsin, California, New Jersey, Alabama, Ohio, Florida, all are seeing increased retirements of public sector employees.”
According to Palguta, all indications point to an increased exodus of federal employees as well as state and local government employees.
It’s not just that baby boomers are deciding to retire. “Some agencies are doing buyouts because of budget considerations and early-out retirements,” Palguta said. “You have the pay freeze, proposals to reduce benefits … and many public employees are simply saying ‘OK, we’ve been on the bubble. We’ve been thinking about it. Now’s the time to go.'”
Riding it out
For managers facing a potential “brain drain” as long-term employees depart, the optimum word is “preparation.” That may be tough to do when you’re already facing hard times.
“When your boat is riding low in the water, you don’t need a tsunami to be swamped,” Palguta said. “You just need an unexpected swell that comes over the gun rails.”
He listed five things that federal managers should be doing now to ride out the wave.
According to Palguta, many managers have become complacent regarding the retirement of employees, some of whom are finding themselves in a better position to make a move than just a few years ago.
“People don’t delay retirement forever,” he said. “Now we’re actually looking at organizations that are going to be scrambling to get the job done because they don’t have enough employees.”